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1. Levinas Studies: Volume > 13
Michael Fishbane “Seeing the Voices”: Enchaining the Chains of Tradition (Reading Levinas Reading Talmud)
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Rabbinic Talmudic tradition is marked by chains of tradition, integrating written Scripture (as prooftext) and oral Traditions (as exegesis). The interrelation of word, voice, and instruction is paramount. Levinas’s reading of Talmudic texts follows this format and continues this tradition, by superimposing his voice and philosophical concerns. I have chosen his reading of Babylonian Talmud, Tractate Makkot 10a as an exemplum. In the process, Levinas’s style and method can be seen as a contemporary meta-commentary on the ancient rabbinic source.
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Sarah Hammerschlag Editor's Introduction
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Jean-Luc Marion A Long Road to Escape
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Adriaan T. Peperzak Toward the Infinite
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Levinas approaches the Infinite as beyond all possible ideas and totalities (especially the Hegelian ones).
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Sarah Hammerschlag A World Without Contours: Levinas’s Critique of Literary Freedom
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This article argues that literature is the necessary foil to Emmanuel Levinas’s development of the category of religion, as the site of relation between the same and the other. The essay tracks Levinas’s dependence on literature to illustrate alterity, but also shows that literature functions as religion’s rival in Levinas’s thought. Playing the terms of religion, literature, and philosophy off one another, the article argues, Levinas was also making an interception into a larger post-World War II debate over which of philosophy’s competing discourses, literature or religion, would win the ascendant seat in the post-war context.
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Paul Davies Levinas’s Restlessness: “God and Philosophy” without Consolation
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The paper reflects on the experience of reading Levinas’s ‘God and Philosophy’ paying particular attention to the ways in which it would have us read the word ‘God.’ Levinas refuses to let the word become the property of even the most radical treatment of religious faith. The word, the biblical word, must never serve the self-consolation of philosophy. Many of Levinas’s readers regret this aspect of his writing, but the paper argues that ‘God and Philosophy’ offers an exemplary introduction to Levinas’s most developed style of writing and thinking, and it does so while bringing to mind the question of the relation between Levinas’s (and, by implication, the reader’s) philosophy and their religion. The second part of the essay considers possible contexts (religious, philosophical and cultural) in which this question and ‘God and Philosophy’ itself can perhaps best be understood.
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Mérédith Laferté-Coutu The Passage and Happening of Time in Levinas’s Otherwise than Being
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What can the passage of time mean for Levinas? Is there a passage of diachronic time? In its many iterations (passage, le se passer, se passe, and passe), passage—an expression that easily goes unnoticed, for it is ordinary, perhaps self-evident, yet almost pervasive in the French language—turns out to be at play throughout Levinas’s last major work. This paper traces the role of the notion in Otherwise than Being and shows its stakes for the remarkably numerous topics that it connects: Levinas’s critique of Husserlian temporality, the relation between the Infinite and the finite, as well as, most generally, justice and the ethical relation itself. Specifically, because the equivocal expression “se passer ” means both passing and happening, diachronic time not only passes but happens.
8. Levinas Studies: Volume > 13
Kaitlyn Newman “Feasting During a Plague”: Levinas and the Ethical Possibilities of Art
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In his early essay, “Reality and Its Shadow,” Levinas appears to take a strong position against art, and while the strength of his admonitions against aesthetics has been questioned, the fact remains that Levinas refers to art (post-Holocaust) as an act that is like “feasting during a plague.” Art becomes offensive. However, is it possible that we could imagine the artwork as a site where the encounter with the Other becomes possible? That is, when we encounter certain artworks, do we not also encounter the radical alterity of one whose experiences and very existence cannot possibly be assimilated to the Same, or to our own experiences? In this paper, I argue that art marks a site where the encounter with the Other is made possible by examining the post-genocide and post-war photographs of Simon Norfolk. I maintain that art thus contains ethical possibilities that actually align with Levinasian ethics, rather than run counter to it, as Levinas seemed to believe. This art cannot be understood through the lens of enjoyment—as “feasting during a plague”—but rather must be understood as an experience which throws us outside of ourselves and our interiority and, in so doing, forces us to confront an alterity and a horror that awakens responsibility and awareness of the Other.
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Michael L. Morgan Plato, Levinas, and Transcendence
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Although Levinas frequently references Plato positively, they are engaged in different philosophical enterprises. Whereas Levinas takes his place in the tradition of modern moral philosophy for which the atrocities of the twentieth century are undeniable burdens, Plato is concerned with cultivating dispositions that promote psychological and social harmony. For Levinas, Plato’s Form of the Good signals a dual commitment, on the one hand to the primacy of ethical action to existence, and on the other to the connection between ethics and transcendence, in the sense of absolute otherness or separation. But this reading is anachronistic.
10. Levinas Studies: Volume > 13
Oona Eisenstadt Rhetorical Subterfuge: A Reading of Levinas’s “Promised Land or Permitted Land”
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This article focuses on a Talmudic lecture Levinas delivered in 1965. Its long central section is an extended reading of most of that lecture’s images and ideas. Its frame, however, treats what does and does not change in Levinas’s conception of the State of Israel between the early ’60s and the early ’80s. At issue here are two other texts: a short but important paragraph from the 1961 lecture published as “Messianic Texts,” and the interview with Malka and Finkielkraut that took place in 1982, shortly after the massacres at Sabra and Shatila. The gist of my closing argument is that while the structure of the understanding of Israel he outlined in 1961 does not change, it is developed very differently in the 1965 lecture and the 1982 interview. I try finally to account for this difference. In the meantime, the long analysis of 1965’s “Promised Land or Permitted Land” offers a novel account of Levinas’s hermeneutic, an account that might perhaps be applied to other Talmudic lectures.
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About the Contributors
12. Levinas Studies: Volume > 13
Martin Kavka For It Is God’s Way to Sweeten Bitter with Bitter: Prayer in Levinas and R. Hayyim of Volozhin
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In accounts of Emmanuel Levinas’s relationship to the Jewish theological tradition, scholars often analyze Levinas’s essays about Rabbi Hayyim of Volozhin, and specifically his 1824 book Soul of Life (Nefesh ha-Ḥayyim). This article treats two essays that Levinas wrote in the mid-1980s on that book, and shows that Levinas’s praise for that book involves coming close to endorsing its theology of suffering, a theology that strikes this article’s author as obscene. In Nefesh ha-Ḥayyim, those who suffer deserve their suffering, their suffering is in proportion to the sins that gave rise to it, and their suffering purifies and atones for their sin—in the language of the Jewish theological tradition, “it is God’s way to sweeten bitter with bitter.” This marks a departure from Levinas’s standard treatment of issues of theodicy in essays such as “Useless Suffering” (1982). In the article’s conclusion, the possibility is raised that Levinas’s account of divine illeity liberates theologians from problems of theodicy.
13. Levinas Studies: Volume > 13
Rodolphe Calin The Notion of Accomplishment in Levinas
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The aim of this article is to emphasize the notion of accomplishment in Levinas, partly building on the unpublished works of the author, where it appears as a keyword of his philosophy. It is a matter of highlighting the double filiation of this term, as an extension of the Husserlian notion of intuitive fullfilment to the entire existence and as a resumption of the hermeneutical and theological notion of figural interpretation. By showing how Levinas applies the structure symbol-accomplishment to the existence, envisaged in its double dynamism of position and participation, this article intends to emphazise the importance—but also the difficulties—of the notion of history in his philosophy.
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Brigitta Keintzel Orcid-ID Editor’s Introduction to "Levinas in Dialogue"
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Emmanuel Levinas, Michael Portal Orcid-ID “The Spiritual Essence of Antisemitism (according to Jacques Maritain)”
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The following is an early, previously untranslated essay by Emmanuel Levinas concerning “the metaphysics of antisemitism.” This essay, published originally in 1938 for Paix et Droit, concerns the shared history and destiny of Jews and Christians, religious groups who maintain a relation of essential “foreignness” to, and so “do not belong” to, the “pagan” world. Levinas distinguishes between the long history of Jewish-Christian antagonism and the newer Nazi-style antisemitism, a particularly insidious “racism” that threatens both Jews and Christians. Levinas calls for a renewed appreciation of the “vocation” common to Jews and Christians to advance Judeo-Christian “solidarity,” a solidarity that Levinas believes is increasingly necessary.
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Sergej Seitz Orcid-ID The Aporia of Justice: Constellations of Normativity in Honneth, Derrida, and Levinas
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As Axel Honneth argues in his early essay “The Other of Justice,” Derrida and Levinas offer convincing arguments for offsetting practical philosophy’s traditional focus on justice with a focus on care. In Honneth, this leads to a strict dichotomy of justice (as equal treatment) and care (as singular responsibility). I show that Derrida and Levinas think of justice and responsibility not as dichotomic, but rather as aporetic. In all ethico-political conflicts, aspects of responsibility and justice are in play that are irreducible to, and in constant tension with, one another. Derrida and Levinas disclose a constitutive . This aporia opens up new perspectives on normativity.
17. Levinas Studies: Volume > 15
Christina Schües The Primacy of Responsibility: Hannah Arendt and Emmanuel Levinas
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Responsibility is central to Emmanuel Levinas as well as Hannah Arendt. A reading of their understanding of the concept and role of responsibility for politics and ethics and in regard to its social-ontological status of primacy, its reference to historical, worldly, and human conditions, brings out the similarities and differences of their work. Regarding their historical context, they could have engaged in a dialogue; but they never did. Their personal temperament and thematic approach to key issues concerning the concept of responsibility—such as subjectivity, primordiality, or relationality—can be used to build pillars for a bridge between the two thinkers’ respective approaches. This essay tries to read each author in light of the other one.
18. Levinas Studies: Volume > 15
Pascal Delhom Orcid-ID Simone Weil and Emmanuel Levinas on Human Rights and the Sense of Obligation toward Others
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There was no dialogue between Simone Weil and Emmanuel Levinas. In many regards, however, their philosophies have much in common. Both defend a conception of human rights as rights of others and as an obligation for the self. Both understand this obligation as an obligation of attention and action for others, based on their needs and their vulnerability. Both find the source of this obligation in the transcendence of the other, and both connect it with a radical passivity of the self, who is subjected to this obligation in spite of itself. At the same time, this proximity between the two philosophers entails and reveals profound differences between them, partially due to the difference between Weil’s metaphysics of light and Levinas’s metaphysics of language. These differences concern the status of subjectivity and of its duty toward the other, as well as the idea of an acceptation of sufferance, especially of the sufferance of others.
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François-David Sebbah, Orcid-ID Mérédith Laferté-Coutu Levinas in Lyotard’s Ear
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This article explores the seemingly exaggerated emphasis of Lyotard on the importance of hearing the ethical commandment in Levinas, instead of seeing or perceiving it in sensibility. Lyotard wants to read Levinas as a “Jewish thinker,” and his ethics as deeply connected to “Hebraic ethics.” Such a reading contrasts with phenomenological and Christian interpretations of Levinas, like Jean-Luc Marion’s, that focus on incarnation, the face, love, and the concrete relation to the other. Yet Lyotard outbids the rigor of commandment in Levinas, insisting on the radical heterogeneity of hearing and any phenomenological seeing. Ethics is completely outside phenomenology. This article argues that, instead of reading Lyotard as misreading Levinas, his approach can be one of the names for the skeptical phase that suspends or interrupts the Levinasian Said itself, especially when it tends to become excessively Christian.
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Robert Bernasconi I am Not Myself: Augustine, Locke, and Levinas on the Self
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The duality or separation of self and me is central to the thinking of Emmanuel Levinas, but it is difficult to understand, not least because of the powerful hold that John Locke’s account of personal identity still has on our thinking of the self. By drawing on Augustine and especially Jean-Luc Marion’s reading of Augustine in In the Self’s Place, it is possible to gain insight into Augustine’s not yet Lockean account of the self so as to arrive at Levinas’s no longer Lockean account.